Narrative-based "adventurous" games: have you played them?

Continuing the discussion from Questions about "let's play":

@N_N, @seguso and me were talking about games strongly based on narrative and exploration but with no much puzzles, or at least not with the same kind of puzzles typical on PnC adventure games.

They are definitely not “point-and-click adventure games” but some people attribute to them the more generic label “adventure games”, others call them “walking simulators”. So, take in mind that I’m talking about a set of games that has not been clearly defined: their definition is elusive and maybe part of their charm comes from this ambiguity.

Please note: this topic is not about how to call / label / classify them.

Instead, I would like to focus on a more personal question: have you played games of this sort? Do you like them?

Here are some of the games that I think could be included in this category:

Based mainly on exploration and/or narrative

Based on exploration, narrative and puzzles

Based on narrative, but a special kind of narrative

EDIT: I’ve added links to Steam pages


Thank you very much LowLevel.

My first thought is I must give another shot at Firewatch. When I tried it, it just did not click for me. I did not find it immersive. But I was looking for a Monkey Island style of atmosphere…

Well, games that immediately come to mind that have superb storytelling and presentation without many puzzles are:

Metal Gear Solid series (only played the first Solid game)
Uncharted (only played 1, 2 and 3)

However, the gameplay mechanics of these games are fundamentally driven by combat… and Uncharted does have puzzles but they aren’t too taxing and they are quite rare. They are also quite linear games; Uncharted plays out as a series of giant movies that you play rather than watch.

As for games that are driven mainly by exploration and/or narrative that don’t have combat as a fundamental game mechanic which preponderates over exploration, I can’t think of a single one I’ve played.

There are games that are kind of hard to place, such as Heavy Rain (which I played and enjoyed very much). The narrative of Heavy Rain is definitely the driving force, but you are put through tasks and moments where you have to respond to the inputs presented on the screen, which trigger scenes to play out in a certain way. It’s possible to succeed or fail in many tasks, leading to multiple endings. Unfortunately, you need a PS3 or 4 to play this game, but it’s worth mentioning as a very specific style of game that is heavily driven by the narrative, and you get to control the narrative. They seem to be described as interactive dramas – a type of action-adventure.

If you can get your hands on this game then I certainly recommend giving it a run. It’s not too long, very intense and immersive. It has a dark and sombre (it’s always raining) ambience which will swallow you up.

That’s pretty much the only non PnC adventure I’ve played which is light on puzzles and driven primarily by the narrative.

I plan to play several of the titles you’ve listed in the OP.

Firewatch is one of those that is in my Steam wishlist and I’ve not already played it.

When you write about “immersion” do you mean something related to the narrative/story or something more related to the exploration of the environment?

That’s quite difficult to achieve, in my opinion, because these games are very different from the kind of the experience of an old-style point-and-click adventure. Dear Esther is set during a moonlit night and it includes locations that can remind a bit those of MI/MI2, especially the locations on the shore. From a graphical point of view, I’ve found it simply stunning.

1 Like

Is it gameplay similar to that of “The Walking Dead” or "Life is Strange"?

I have not a Playstation, though.

The Room and The Room Two are primarily about problem-solving and exploration (of items) but it offers a great narrative without hitting you over the head with it. Tracing through the steps of a previous adventurer who has left many notes (hidden and in plain sight) to help you, guide you, and talk of his discoveries and his quest to understand new and mysteries properties and essence of life and being, created a wondrous and captivating ambience.

I couldn’t tell you. What I’d say is that from what I’ve heard, The Walking Dead builds in choice and options but still has that more typical adventure pacing, whereas Heavy Rain is like playing a film out yourself… very cinematic with periods of prolonged intensity.

Checking more of The Walking Dead, it feels episodic as though I’m watching Smallville or something, whereas Heavy Rain felt like I was playing out something like Silence of the Lambs. I actually own The Walking Dead so I should probably install it and actually play the thing at some point.

Gone Home

I think it was my first proper “walking simulator” experience and I remember really enjoying all that I discovered in it. At the time its kind of “explorative narration” felt very interesting to me and still now I think every game that has “narrative” among its perks should be crafted with proper “environmental storytelling”.


I found it interesting, while not really my cup of coffee at the time I played it. Exploring for the sake of exploring felt not as fun as I thought, but I may be wrong.

I wonder what will happen if I will play it again.

The Stanley Parable

I only played it recently and personally I found the way it is designed to be amusing.

Putting the humor aside (I never really it was out of place or overdone), I’d say that maybe because it is so “small” in scale, it reminded me how designers can keep almost everything under control while not getting in the way of the players (unless that is the main purpose) and leaving them with a realistic enough sense of freedom.


This one I couldn’t appreciate very much. I remember enjoying the whole plot and the overall way the story is presented, but already have vague memories of it even though I played it quite recently.
It was a really slow experience for me and I felt probably too much taken-by-the-hand for my own taste.

Still, I don’t think it is an “objectively” bad game. Certainly there are people who loved it and I can see their point nonetheless :slight_smile:

Two other games off the top of my head, both free and both with no obvious puzzles (the second has none for sure).


By Cardboard Computer, the people who brought us Kentucky Route Zero (that I still have to play completely), comes a pretty much strange adventurous experience set in the desert.

It is included in a collection (which features also work from Tale of Tales and others) made for the Triennale International Exhibition in Milan, originally available on mobile devices (I really like how Neigbhor took advantage of that) and now also available for free on Steam

Packing Up The Rest of Your Stuff on the Last Day at Your Old Apartment

Pretty self-explanatory, this is a short trip in someone’s attempt at packing things up before leaving.

(I remembered that items had no description, but I found out they had)


Anyone played To the Moon?

1 Like

I’ve played the first one and I really liked it, but I consider it a game based mainly on puzzles.

Actually, it reminded me of physical box puzzles, those that you have to understand how to open. Yes, The Room has also a story, but I think it’s quite thin and just a secondary element to let the player focus on the main goal: opening boxes.

The narrative is very thin, yet very profound. It’s primarily a puzzle game. The plot thickens in the second game. I’d love to play the third game but I don’t have a fancy phone and it’s not available on Steam.

So I looked more into definitions and from what I can see Heavy Rain plays similarly enough to The Walking Dead to reasonably compare them. They both have the tag “interactive drama” attached to them and they both make extensive use of quick time events (QTEs).

Both are driven very powerfully by the narrative and character development.

It seems there could be quite a clear branch for that type of “interactive drama” game and the fairly recent proliferation of “walking simulators”.

Well, I played and liked games categorised as “visual novel”, that is where there’s a main plot to follow, and you mainly have to read a story, interact, with objects or other characters, solve puzzles, take decisions that affects the story way.

All of them are on Nintendo (3)DS


  • Ace Attorney trilogy (Phoenix Wright, Justice for all, Trials & tribulations)
  • Apollo Justice
  • Miles Edgeworth Investigation (1 & 2)
  • Dual Destinies
  • Spirit of Justice
  • Ghost Trick

From Level-5:

  • Professor Layton (all the 6 games)

From Capcom + Level-5:

  • Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright

From Aksys:

  • 999 - 9 hours, 9 persons, 9 doors
  • Virtue’s Last Reward
  • Zero Time Dilemma
1 Like

I mean the sensation to “be there”, in a world, and not in front of the PC.

In firewatch, the fact that you are alone (at least for the first 30 mins I played) prevented this from happening, I think. Also, in the forest you could not interact with anything. Then I got to the outpost and the object manipulation was clumsy and not very direct, and so I quit.

Gone Home is probably my favorite game of this kind (but Dear Esther was also a mesmerizing experience that I will never forget) and I was hooked by its story: the more I explored that house, the more I wanted to go deeper, and I started to perceive myself as an intruder who was violating the privacy of those people. When I discovered what I consider to be the most dark and sad secret of that family, I was overwhelmed by the emotions.

I usually play games in a quite detached way but Gone Home was one of the few games that managed to make me feel part of the narrated story.

I didn’t know Virginia, Neighbor and Packing Up The Rest of Your Stuff on the Last Day at Your Old Apartment. I’ll give them a look, thanks. :slight_smile:

1 Like

I started playing it but I never finished it. My cousin told me that he considers it a storytelling masterpiece. I’m not sure if it’s my cup of tea but I’ll play it again sooner or late, this time to experience the whole story.

Oh, thanks for looking to it. I understand what kind of game it is, then.

I’m not crazy about quick time events (why should I have just a few moments to take a decision? What if I like to think more? Why should I enjoy thinking less?) but I was playing a game that uses a similar mechanic just a few days ago and I’m not completely against it. The game is an interactive movie and it’s called “Late Shift”.

I played this one, I enjoyed its story very much (but I admit that I was a bit lost at the end).

I have also played some of the Layton games, which I consider mostly puzzle games. But their stories are for sure well written.

Well, be careful then about some of these “walking simulators”. Some of them, like Dear Esther or Proteus do not provide any form of interaction. Just walking and observing.


You can think about the ramifications of the aftermath instead – especially enriching in the case of scenarios that lead to multiple branches. Of course, you might have that nagging feeling inside and have a sleepless night wondering “what if…”

–maniacal and evil laugh–

Firewatch is simply amazing!!! You must play it.

1 Like

I absolutely love The Witness. I was playing it in the run-up to TWP being released, and was trying to ‘complete’ it (if you’ve played it you’ll see why I included those quote marks) beforehand. I didn’t manage it and will get back on it soon, now that I’ve finished TWP.

Anyway, I love the landscape on which the puzzles are set - it’s so beautiful to look at. The puzzles themselves are so intricate and imaginatively thought out - I’ve always been a massive fan of classic lateral thinking puzzles and these are similar in that they require you to think ‘sideways’. It’s a weird combination of conceptual meets mechanical that really appeals to me. And the way in which the game steers you to learn how the puzzles work is so subtle - practically subliminal - that the result is intense satisfaction in solving them. I felt like such a clever dick :smile:

It reminds me a bit of The Talos Principle, which in turn reminds me of Portal, though I’m not sure they qualify as the type of games @LowLevel is talking about.

The Stanley Parable is also thought-provoking and amusing, but too much of a ‘snapshot’ to really get engrossed in. The concept is clever though.

1 Like

I can do that regardless of the quantity of time the game gives me to take a decision.

Further, while I was playing “Late Shift” I clicked by mistake the wrong button, only because I needed to do it quickly and because I like to play games in a very relaxed way and position, on my couch with my laptop: something that doesn’t help with the need of being quick and precise.

Time constrains completely modify the dynamics of how I play a game. It stops being a mental process and it becomes a sequence of instinctive actions that sometimes require dexterity.

I will, because I like the atmosphere and because I have read some spoiler-free reviews that praised the narrative and the interaction between the two protagonists. :slight_smile:

It seems something that I could enjoy. Would you classify the puzzles as “hard”?

That’s always a pleasant and rewarding feeling. :stuck_out_tongue:

I tried The Talos Principe but it began with some session in which I had to shoot stuff and I immediately lost any interest, abandoning it. On the other hand, I like Portal very much. I never finished it, because I become frustrated when my dexterity skills prove to be inadequate to play the last levels of the game, but I loved both the concept and the story.

1 Like

I played Dear Esther and Firewatch. Did not expect much from the first, and so it wasn’t a big deal that there was little else than slightly outdated (by the time I played it) graphics.

Firewatch OTOH blew me away. It’s one of the rare games that I’d consider mature. And with “mature” I don’t mean gore and sex and grimdark, but adult protagonists dealing with adult stuff in an otherwise atmospheric and visually pleasant environment. It’s neither a difficult game, nor does it feature a top-notch narrative, but it had a main character I could absolutely relate to and perhaps the most natural conversations ever written and acted in any video game (I played).

For the same reason I loved Firewatch, I never really brought myself to try Life is Strange, even after it came out for Linux. Its protagonists are of a different generation, with problems and issues I can no longer relate to, and I don’t think I’d have much fun playing that.

1 Like

I remembered another game that probably deserves to be included among the others that I listed in the first post. It’s “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter”.

Exploring those locations was a delight and some of the puzzles were interesting, but maybe not particularly remarkable.

The main feature that drove me to buy the game were its stunning visuals. The developers have used photogrammetry, a technique that uses real-life photos to show 3D objects nearly identical to those existing in reality. The developers’ blog explains this methodology and shows a few 3D interactive objects created with photogrammetry.